Recent data establish a logarithmic expansion of leucine rich repeat containing G protein coupled receptor 5–positive (Lgr5+) colonic epithelial stem cells (CESCs) in human colorectal cancer (CRC). Complementary studies using the murine 2-stage azoxymethane–dextran sulfate sodium (AOM-DSS) colitis-associated tumor model indicate early acquisition of Wnt pathway mutations drives CESC expansion during adenoma progression. Here, subdivision of the AOM-DSS model into in vivo and in vitro stages revealed DSS induced physical separation of CESCs from stem cell niche cells and basal lamina, a source of Wnt signals, within hours, disabling the stem cell program. While AOM delivery in vivo under non-adenoma-forming conditions yielded phenotypically normal mucosa and organoids derived thereof, niche injury ex vivo by progressive DSS dose escalation facilitated outgrowth of Wnt-independent dysplastic organoids. These organoids contained 10-fold increased Lgr5+ CESCs with gain-of-function Wnt mutations orthologous to human CRC driver mutations. We posit CRC originates by niche injury–induced outgrowth of normally suppressed mutated stem cells, consistent with models of adaptive oncogenesis.
Stefan Klingler, Kuo-Shun Hsu, Guoqiang Hua, Maria Laura Martin, Mohammad Adileh, Timour Baslan, Zhigang Zhang, Philip B. Paty, Zvi Fuks, Anthony M.C. Brown, Richard Kolesnick